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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The novel is narrated by Art Croft from the first person point of view. The book begins as Art and his friend, Gil Carter, cross the Eastern Divide about two o'clock in the afternoon. They pause to look down into the big valley below and excitedly spy the little town that is their destination. Traveling for a long time, often in winter weather, they both look forward to being in civilization once again.
Art and Gil start down the steep road into the valley. They notice that it has been washed clean by the run-off from the winter storms. They also notice bits of brush beginning to grow again, signaling the start of spring. The squirrels and chipmunks have also emerged from their winter hibernation and are scurrying to and fro. Art and Gil have been traveling together for five years. Totally comfortable in each other's company, they do not feel the need to fill their time with idle chatter; silence does not bother them. As they ride into the valley, all is quiet. They finally reach Bridger's Wells, the little town spied from above, at about three o'clock.
Bridger's Valley is a typical Western frontier town. There is a wooden church with peeling paint. Most of the houses and other buildings, usually made of wood, have been left unpainted. Only a few structures are constructed of brick. Since Art and Gil have visited here before, they recognize Arthur Davies' general store, Canby's saloon, the Bridger Inn, and the Union Church. They also know that there are ranches to the north and south of town.
Canby asks Gil and Art what they will have to drink, but Gil answers that he has not yet decided. Canby grumpily responds that he does not like men who cannot make up their minds. When he suggests whisky to them, Art and Gil both order a drink. They note that it is the first drop of whisky that they have had since Christmas. It is also the first time that they have been in Bridger's Wells since the fall. Art tells Canby that in the interim, he and Art have been traveling over the range. He has had to listen to Gil sing the same three songs and tell the same stories about women and himself. He admits that the two of them have fought often during the winter, for Gil is aggressive by nature and does not take criticism well.
As the three men talk, Monte Smith enters. Art and Gil ignore him, but Art pays for him a drink, which he takes and then goes off. Art asks Canby about Rose Mapen, Gil's girlfriend in town. Canby tells them that the married women have driven her out of town, which makes Gil feel bad. He asks Canby what he and Art can do to entertain themselves in Bridger's Wells. He answers that they can eat, sleep, drink, play poker, or fight. As the three continue their conversation, the foreman from Drew's ranch enters and orders a drink. Canby asks him about Sheriff Risley and the cattle rustlers, but it is obvious that Moore does not want to discuss anything in front of the two strangers. Gil continues to order whiskies and gets a little drunk. Canby offers him and Art some hard bread and dried beef. At first Gil refuses the food, but later eats without pretense.